Former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan is dead

President-General Chun Doo-hwan, who died Tuesday, November 23 at the age of 90 at his home in Seoul, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap, established a military dictatorship marked by one of the bloodiest episodes of South Korea’s history since the fratricidal war with the North (1950-1953): the massacre by elite troops in Gwangju in May 1980 of hundreds of civilians following a popular uprising. He had succeeded another general, Park Chung-hee, assassinated in October 1979.

Born January 18, 1931 into a modest family from Yulgok-myeon, a small town in South Gyeongsang province, Chun Doo-hwan had a difficult childhood. Korea was under Japanese rule at the time, and after settling in Daegu, her family had to flee to China, due to her father’s run-ins with the police. She did not return to Daegu until after Japan had surrendered.

Graduated from the Military Academy in 1955, Chun Doo-hwan was among the young officers who supported the military putsch of Park Chung-hee in May 1961. He quickly rose through the ranks of the military hierarchy to become, in 1969, special adviser of the Chief of Staff. Colonel, he commanded a regiment of the South Korean contingent fighting in Vietnam alongside the Americans.

Club secret

Having become a general, commander of the first infantry division, he was appointed in 1979 to head the security services of the army. With the approval of Park Chung-hee, he had formed a secret “club” (baptized Hanahoe: “Group One”) bringing together officers of his class from like himself (and like Park) from Gyeongsang province.

Following the murder of Park Chung-hee by Kim Jae-kyu, head of the secret service (nicknamed SCIA, or “Korean CIA”), on October 26, 1979 during a presidential dinner, Chun Doo- hwan was appointed by the chief of staff, Jeong Seung-hwa, to head the commission of inquiry. His first action was to place the SCIA under his authority – thus ensuring control of the two most powerful security organizations in the country (military and civilian).

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In the weeks that followed, supported by his followers of the “Hanahoe club” who bypassed the chain of command, Chun prepared his putsch. On December 12, he ordered the arrest of the Chief of Staff, accused of complicity in the assassination of Park – which will prove false many years later.

A series of armed clashes took place overnight between the legalists and the rebels. But, at dawn, the latter had control of the capital. On May 17, 1980, at the head of the junta, Chun Doo-hwan extended martial law to the whole country and arrested around 20 politicians. A new military dictatorship was announced and demonstrations broke out in the provinces. In particular in Gwangju, capital of South Jeolla (southwest of the peninsula).

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Former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan is dead

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